Heart Health Month is celebrated throughout the whole month of February to bring awareness to the importance reducing the risk of heart disease. Heart disease is the #1 killer in the U.S. for both men and women. The good news is that we can help prevent heart disease by starting healthier habits now and continuing them all year long.
We all know that healthy habits for heart health include exercise and a heart-healthy diet. However, high levels of stress can be as dangerous to our heart health as a junk food diet and couch potato lifestyle. Here are three ways to help reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering your stress levels.
- Start a meditation practice.
It’s easy to get caught up in our hectic lives and busy calendars and finding work-life balance can be challenging. However, slowing down and developing a meditation practice can help you feel less stress, more productive and even happier.
A meditation practice can take on many forms. If you are into physical activity than something like yoga may be to your liking. You’re moving your body with awareness and tuning everything else in your life out for that time period. If you are more of the reflective type, perhaps journaling is more your speed. Journaling you’re your daily thoughts can help us reflect on the things we are grateful for in our lives as well as give us perspective on our challenges. A sitting meditation is a practice that anyone can take up to help lower stress and gain mind-body awareness. There are many ways to practice a sitting meditation, but the easiest one is to simply focus on your breath. By doing that, the body starts to relax which sends high blood pressure down and signals the brain to lower adrenaline and other stress hormones.
2. Spend time with seniors.
Being around children and babies can be joyful and send your body lots of happy chemicals. However, it can also be exhausting and even stressful if you have your hands full. I’ve always found that spending time with senior citizens forces us to slow down our pace and can offer us perspective.
If you don’t have many seniors in your life, you can head over to a senior citizen center in your community and volunteer for a few hours. Read a book, share a meal or lend your ear to someone who may not have any visitors. Volunteering is a great way for you to feel good about your contribution but also for the recipients to benefit as well.
In addition, if you’re lucky enough to still have your grandparents or your parents in your life who are seniors than you can reach out to them more often. A handwritten card is always special at any age, a phone call, or a video message from you and the kids will be sure to brighten up a relative’s day. If you have someone in your life that you worry about, gift them safety through Mace Alert 911. If your loved one is home bound or still active, this product that is the size of a Tic-Tac box can save their life if they are in a medical emergency. It will call 911 by pushing a button anywhere there is cellular service. It can be worn and therefore, more easily accessible than a phone. Again, this can help lower your anxiety and stress levels and rest easy knowing they are a call away from help during an emergency.
3. Visit an animal shelter.
Animals need love too! If you are an animal lover it can be the most heart-warming and heart-busting thing you can do. You don’t have to be in the market for adopting a pet to grab a bag of treats and go visit some cats and dogs that are locked up in cages. If you are in between pets or have room for an extra but not sure about adopting, there are plenty of rescue organizations that are desperate for foster homes.
Not only do animals give you unconditional love, according to a study by the Minnesota Stroke Institute, owning a cat can lower your odds by 30% of suffering from a heart attack! The researchers assume that dog owners would most likely give you the same benefit. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3317329/)
Save an animal and save yourself from a lifestyle-related disease by lowering blood pressure and stress.